By BECKY GILLETTE
About five years ago the Mississippi Bankers Association decided it would be beneficial to establish a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to fund consumer education and scholarships in the state. To date, due to the generosity of bankers in the state, the MBA Education Foundation has raised nearly $280,000, said Mac Deaver, president of the MBA.
“At the recent Mississippi Bankers Association convention, we had a silent auction that raised $14,000,” Deaver said. “It was a lot of fun, and for a good cause. We really appreciate the donations to the auction and the people who purchased the items. We feel like we are just getting started at this. We are getting to the point we are raising more funds and able to do more things.”
A number of other organizations, some private and some public, are also working on consumer education. Deaver said they are looking at the possibility of partnering with other foundations that do financial education to coordinate and enhance programs.
“There is a lot of good work going on and we are all in this together,” he said.
The mission of the MBA Education Foundation is to promote banker and consumer education in Mississippi. The ultimate goal is to promote the success of Mississippi banks and their customers through education and, in the process, present a positive, accurate image of the Mississippi banking industry
One of the most highly visible programs has been the Banker in Every Classroom that teams up local bankers with teachers to teach financial education for grades K-12.
“We kick it off every fall, and in the past five years have reached about 70,000 students in Mississippi,” Deaver said. “We are reaching 10,000 students, mainly in that one Banker in Every Classroom week. Each year the numbers have increased. We have hundreds of bankers and teachers involved. They apply to the MBA office, let them know they are interested, and we send materials. They don’t have a required curriculum. But we do have curriculum on topics such as savings, credit and budgeting. We have age appropriate materials.”
For kindergarten students, it is as basic as explaining the difference between coins and paper money. Deaver recalls one presentation where they used a puppet. In the higher grades, they talk about establishing credit, using credit, the importance of saving and how to budget.
“We want local teachers and bankers to decide what they want to present to their students in their communities,” Deaver said. “It is very broad. We have also found that, as we intended, relationships between teachers and local bankers is created or maintained.”
Sometimes it is pretty obvious that the students aren’t learning these lessons at home. Perhaps budgeting, for example, isn’t something that their parents were ever taught.
“The family is the key to so many things,” Deaver said. “But we are finding on personal finance matters, a lot of grown folks don’t have some basic information.”
Credit card debt is certainly a topic that is often discussed, especially for older students. Credit cards can be a big temptation, especially for college students who might only be working part-time while paying high costs for tuition and books. High interest rates can make the bills mount quickly.
The MBA Young Bankers Association, which has been around since 1950, participates in the Banker in Every Classroom in a big way, Deaver said.
Another big piece of what the MBA Education Foundation does is scholarship. The Swayze awards are named after Orrin Swayze, a banker in Jackson who started the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University. A $1,500 scholarship goes to a senior studying banking and finance at five public universities in Mississippi. One is named a Swayze scholar and is awarded an additional $5,000 and the Swayze medallion.
There is a $2,000 leadership scholarship awarded a college junior studying banking and finance at a Mississippi university. And there is a $2,000 merit scholarship given to child of a Mississippi banker, who doesn’t have to be enrolled in banking and finance. And there is the Donald L. Moak Achievement Award for $1,000 given to the top student at the Mississippi School of Banking, which is continuing education program for bankers.
Scholarship money has been raised from generosity of bankers, Deaver said.
“We have awarded $75,000 in scholarship in the past five years,” he said.
The chairman of the foundation is the vice chairman of the MBA. That position is currently held by Jerry Host, president/CEO of Trustmark Bank, and will transition to Mary Childs, president and chief executive officer of The Peoples Bank in Ripley, in July.